By Will Reisman, @WillReisman
Since becoming the first region in the country to emerge from the Great Recession, the economy of Silicon Valley has continued a level of growth unmatched by any other place in the nation. Although there are challenges facing the region, that growth is likely to continue, with the possibility of another burst bubble looking increasingly unlikely, according to the 2015 Silicon Valley Index, an annual report compiled by Joint Venture Silicon Valley that was released last week.
Compiling data related to Silicon Valley’s people, places, societies, economies and government, the report examines a series of indicators—quantitative measures of relevance—that are crucial to understanding the long-term health of the region. The report can be downloaded on the Joint Venture Silicon Valley homepage, and the data is also available on a separate website specifically dedicated to the Silicon Valley Index.
Joint Venture Silicon Valley considers all of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties to be part of Silicon Valley, along with a few towns and cities in Santa Cruz and Alameda counties. It is now including parts of San Francisco County into its report, due to the city’s increasingly close ties to Silicon Valley.
Nearly 3 million people live in the area defined as Silicon Valley, with the average annual earnings for the area topping out at an impressive $116,033. Over the past year, nearly 58,000 jobs were added in Silicon Valley, a 4.1 percent growth rate that is the region’s highest figure since 2000. Many of those workers are using public transit to get to their jobs, as evidenced by the 36 percent per capita ridership increase on Caltrain between 2010 and 2014. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s express bus service network and the Altamont Corridor Express train system also registered impressive ridership growths over the past few years.
Despite the impressive wealth of the area, Silicon Valley is not without its issues, as evidenced by the 30 percent of residents living below Self-Sufficiency Standards, an indicator that measures how much a family needs to earn to adequately meet its minimum needs.
In the report, Joint Venture president and CEO Russell Hancock addressed the issue of sustaining the kind of growth currently underway in Silicon Valley.
“This kind of growth is a thing to celebrate, surely,” Hancock said in the report’s introduction. “But there are perils associated with prosperity, and anybody trying to navigate their way around the region feels it. The growth is straining our infrastructure, and putting housing out of reach for too many.”
That strain on infrastructure is noticeable on Caltrain, where years of ridership growth—fueled largely in part by Silicon Valley’s economic excellence—have resulted in considerable capacity constraints. To address these problems, and other longer-term issues facing the rail agency, the Caltrain Commuter Coalition was formed. Comprised of public and private entities, the coalition is advocating for a modernized Caltrain system, which will be able to fully support the mobility needs of its customers, many of whom live and work in Silicon Valley.